The Wizards Lose in Offensive Fashion in Utah
[photo via Utah Jazz]
The good news? No matter what the Wizards do from now until the end of the season, they are guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, since they can finish no worse than fourth in the Eastern Conference. The bad news? The Wizards were in third place and just two games back from the top spot going into last night’s match up against the Utah Jazz, and after they lost the game, they were tied with Toronto Raptors which means they are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
After surrendering an average of 112.3 points the previous six games, the Wizards gave up just 95 points to the Utah Jazz (five points below their season average), and still lost the game after scoring just 88 points (21 points below their average of 109). The culprit this time? The offense by anyone not named Bradley Beal.
John Wall shot a measly 6-for-22 from the field, including 1-for-9 in the second half, and he was damn near invisible in the fourth quarter when he took just two shots and missed both. Typically when Wall’s shot is not on target, he can fall back on playing at an accelerated pace and his ability to get his teammates involved as a way to still stay involved in the game. Last night, not even that part of his game was accessible.
Wall had just five assists against the Jazz (six fewer than his average during this road trip) and none in the fourth quarter when the Jazz began to separate from the Wizards. To make matters worse, Shelvin Mack, who used to be tasked with backing up Wall as a Washington Wizard, played exceptional the entire game, but specifically in the fourth quarter. Mack scored six of Utah’s seven points during the last 2:05 of the game, and almost all of them came at Wall’s expense. At one point Mack faked a three-pointer, watched Wall bite, and then drove right by him to draw the foul–a move that Wall frequently uses when he is on offensively. Perhaps we should blame Chris Thompson for singing Wall’s praises just one day earlier on Deadspin. But Wall wasn’t the only Wizards player to come up short.
After the game, a game which saw Wall pick up his 15th technical foul (one away from a suspension), he was focused less on substandard play on the court, and more of his perceived slights from the referees:
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 1, 2017
Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris combined to shoot just 29-percent from the floor and they scored just 19 points. Yes the long arms of Rudy Gobert lurked around the basket as he tried to swat every shot in his vicinity, but in the case of Porter and Gortat, it was lack of shots (seven for Porter and four for Gortat), not a lack of accuracy which kept them at bay. Morris had no problems getting off any of his 13 shots, but he hit just two of them, and half of his eight points were from the free throw line, not the field. To add some perspective, Gordon Hayward alone scored as many points as this Wizards front line.
Brandon Jennings deserves some of the blame for this Wizards loss, after playing 14 minutes and not attempting a simple shot. When he first arrived to Washington, he joked that he had never been criticized by a coach for not shooting enough that way he had been by Scott Brooks. A month later, his game still lacks aggression. In the fourth quarter, Jennings would bring the ball up to court, pass it to Beal or Bogdanovic, and then drift to the corner or out of the play, and disappear from the play. He made no attempts to bring down Dante Exum or Shelvin Mack off the dribble, and he did not try to extend the defense with an outside shot.
— CSN Wizards (@CSNWizards) April 1, 2017
Bradley Beal was the MVP in the loss against the Jazz with 27 points on 10-0f-20 shooting, including 15 in the fourth quarter. There were no open shots because of Wall’s off night, so he had manufacture his own points via the drive, pull-ups and the crafty in-and-out dribbles he continues to perfect. He did commit a crucial turnover by stepping out of bounds with 48 seconds left in the game, but given his yeoman effort the rest of the night, he can hardly be blamed for that.
Kelly Oubre continued his stretch of inspired play during this four game road trip with 10 points, four rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes of play. He was particularly effective towards the end of the first quarter and at the start of the second quarter when the Wizards trailed by as much as nine points. He grabbed rebounds, he stole a pass from Gordon Hayward, he drove hard to the basket and dunked the ball, he hit an open jumper and he seemed to be everywhere on the court. When he entered the game with 8:31 left in the first quarter after Otto Porter picked up his second foul, the score was 13-5 in Utah’s favor. When he left the game with 8:16 left in the second quarter, the Wizards led 31-28–mainly because of Oubre’s hustle. Coach Scott Brooks has been imploring Oubre to ignore his offense and focus on the defense if he wants to be a regular part of the rotation, but last night he demonstrated that he can easily do both.
After impressive wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers to begin this road trip, the Wizards have now dropped consecutive games to the Clippers and the Jazz in very different fashion. Against the Clippers their offense was clicking but they allowed 133 points; and last night against the Jazz they played effective defense for three quarters (they allowed 31 in the last quarter) but their offense was off and stifled by the stiff Jazz defense. Next up? The Golden State Warriors, the owners of the NBA’s best record (62-14) and the longest win streak (10 games)–the latter accomplishment earned without the services of Kevin Durant. A win over the Warriors is always rewarding, but the for the Wizards a victory would be most helpful. It would easily erase the bad taste of this Jazz loss before they return home, and allow them to keep pace or even surpass the Toronto Raptors who are now one spot ahead of the Wizards and sitting in third place in the East.
Wizards lose. Never could truly solve Utah's defense.
Fall to 4th in the East.
Next up: Sunday at Golden State
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) April 1, 2017
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